It was a question that popped into my head the other day, as I’ve just moved into a new area and have been going for walks to learn my way around the neighbourhood.
Now that I’m out of home quarantine, it’s been refreshing to actually experience outside again, even if I’m without a fur BFF at the moment.
So when I saw a pair of Labradors chasing a tennis ball that their fur-parent had flicked across the oval for them, this question popped into my head so unexpectedly that I just had to pause for a moment.
Not just from saying goodbye at the end of one dog’s years, but if dogs were winked out of existence. What would we do, if we no longer had our furry four-legged (and those with less who we love just as much!) best friends by our side?
It probably sounds obvious to say this, but when I really thought about it, I realised that dogs influence our world in ways we may not always consciously recognise. In both profound, big ways and meaningful, subtle ways. The way dogs are entwined in every facet of our society and so many cultures is as complex as a tapestry.
People often say that dogs rescue us as much as we rescue them, but I think it’s easy to forget that a lot of that rescuing happens when we aren’t paying any attention. And it comes from the most unexpected places.
Which is why I wanted to write about this today. Not only as a way to recognise everything that dogs do for us, but to also take the time to think about how we can do something in return for our canine pals too. How we can appreciate the dogs in our lives, and what we can do to give back to our dogs, considering how much they give us day in day out.
So here it is… my take on imagining a world without dogs.
If there’s one thing any dog lover will tell you about having a doggo best friend in your family, it’s that dogs invite oodles of adventure into our lives. They not only help us to step outside our comfort zones and give different experiences a try, they’re also often the reason why we discover new locations that we’d otherwise have never stumbled across.
Stimulating our dogs both physically and mentally means we also have to be on our toes. Whether it’s hunting out a new and interesting walk beyond the usual routes, or signing up to a new type of dog training class - dogs make us think bigger and brighter when it comes to experiencing life.
They give us the courage to ‘get out there’ and be brave when it comes to the unfamiliar and unknown.
Without dogs? Life definitely wouldn’t look as exciting.
One reason why many of us decide to adopt a dog and invite these amazing animals into our homes is because of the companionship they offer. In fact, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak adoptions of dogs soared - most likely for this very reason.
A cuddle from a furry friend can feel like the absolute best thing in the world, especially when we’re a little lonely or upset. And the almost-frenzied greeting dogs offer us when we walk through the front door? It can make anyone feel like they’re ten feet tall.
Take a look at the incredible work that organisations all over the world and here at home in Australia do, to pair willing dogs with people most in need of companionship - such as the Companion Animal Network Australia.
They work with aged care providers, aged care stakeholder agencies, and run social media and web campaigns to reach elderly people and promote information on pet-friendly rentals and pet-friendly care.
It’s been well documented that pets can help improve mental health to a large degree. This 2018 academic review of 17 studies was published in the BMC Psychiatry Journal, and the authors found that ‘Qualitative studies illuminated the intensiveness of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis.’
For most of us who have had pets in our lives we know the truth of dogs helping us in a time of crisis in reality. I was certainly guilty of hugging my dog Archie while I cried and he tried to lick up my tears on more than one stressful or upsetting occasion, and in that time of crisis he was exactly what I needed to feel loved and supported.
There’s the common saying that ‘dog is man’s best friend’. And I’m sure you will most likely agree with me when I say, I have yet to see any proof that refutes this statement! Whether it’s simply wagging their tail in greeting or curling up with us as we chill out on the couch, the warmth and devotion dogs offer us is unparalleled.
So to think of a world without that calming, nurturing influence by our sides? You couldn’t pay me to live in that kind of world.
Another reason why many families decide to add a furry member to the pack is because of the physical purpose dogs give us. Come rain or shine, it’s our responsibility to get out and about on a walk with our dogs, giving them the physical exercise to ensure they live long, happy, healthy lives.
But do you know what? Dogs also ensure we get the physical exercise we need to live long, happy and healthy lives too! You’ve probably read about how moderate exercise can have a multitude of benefits for humans, whilst getting active can have a direct impact on our mental health too.
No matter how sluggish or drained we feel, no matter how irritated or annoyed or anxious we are... once we get out into the fresh air with our dogs - often taking a tennis ball or a frisbee for our pup pals - it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll feel better by the end of that walk.
Likewise, dogs give us structure and stability during our days. Even if we’re feeling particularly low, dogs give us the incentive to get up and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
This is particularly important for anyone whose mental health is suffering, where even getting out of bed can feel like an insurmountable mountain some days. Knowing that we have to get up, feed, toilet and generally look after our dogs can be enough of a reason to prevent (or at least slow) those darkest downward mental spirals.
Dogs give us so much more than a reason to go out for a daily walk. They give us the focus and purpose to keep going, even in the toughest moments.
Without them? Our stories would look completely different.
As I mentioned before, dogs truly do offer us the best kind of companionship we could ever ask for. Loyal, devoted and not afraid to show favouritism for their ‘top hoomans’, dogs are an inexhaustible source of affection and warmth.
In this article from the Guardian, Marion Janner also makes the fantastic point that dogs are completely ‘equal opportunists’, as she states that they are:
“...Entirely indifferent to race, gender, star sign, CV, clothes size or the ability to throw cool moves on the dance floor. The simplicity and depth of this love is a continuous joy.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
The unconditional love a dog offers is… well… pretty phenomenal. I can’t think of a time I’ve encountered such unquestioning acceptable and unreserved adoration than with a dog. To not be able to experience this - to consider a world where this no longer exists? I’m just extremely glad it does.
I don’t know about you, but thinking about all the ways dogs impact our lives has made me appreciate them infinitely more.
And personally I really wish I had a furry best friend to spoil right now! Of course, the greatest way we can show appreciation for everything dogs do for us and the unconditional love they give us is by loving them just as much in return.
It sounds a bit lame but that unconditional love is the reason I built Paws for Giving. I believe that, like all animals, dogs should be treated with even greater care, devotion and love than they offer us.
I’ve always been an advocate for underdogs, and the literal dogs in our lives are the absolute no-brainer underdogs to champion.
In fact, there is a big parallel between our literal underdog dogs, and the animal rescue groups that Paws for Giving supports. Each group we work with (and those that we don’t I’m sure!) gives so much love and affection to these rescue dogs and other animals that they care for every day.
And where else did animal rescue groups get their model of that unconditional love from, but our furry mentors who devote their everything to us, and trust us to keep them warm, fed and happy!
Like all of the animal lovers I know, I believe each dog deserves to be treated with the same devotion they offer us, to have a home full of squeezy hugs and warmth.
So if you are now considering how you can show your own dog, as well as the dogs of Australia just how much you care, it could be simpler than you imagined. Our 'gifts for everyone' include gifts for your pup!
And remember, you choose an animal rescue and we will donate 50% of profit from your purchase to them. Maybe your purchase will go directly to providing a pupper or two with a heart worming treatment, or a new enrichment toy.
But of course, purchases aside, please go cuddle your pup now. Because that's the most important thing of all, and it's what I wish I could do too.
The moral of this blog? Thank goodness we do live in a world where dogs exist.
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